Basil Brown Archive
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- Held At: Suffolk Record Office
- Reference Number: HD3096
- Accession Number: IP/16911
- Accession Number: IP/18855
- Date: 1921-1990s
- Level: Collection
- Description: Basil Brown is one of Suffolk's best-known archaeologists; the dig that he is most famous for would be uncovering two Anglo-Saxon ship burials at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk.
Brown was born in 1888 to a tenant farming family who moved from Bucklesham to Ricklinghall before he was one year old. Brown left formal education at the age of 12 and worked with his father on the farm but continued to teach himself Latin, astronomy and archaeology. His love for astronomy saw him publish papers and write a book Astronomical Atlases, Maps and Charts: An Historical and General Guide.
Ipswich Museum and the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology engaged Brown as their archaeologist during the 1930s on various digs. In 1938, Ipswich Museum recommended Brown to local estate owner Edith Pretty, who wanted an archaeologist to excavate mounds on her estate at Sutton Hoo. The excavations at Sutton Hoo were career defining for Brown. He discovered two Anglo-Saxon ship burials, one of which had not been successfully robbed. Although a team of archaeologists were brought in from Cambridge University to excavate the burial chamber, it was Brown's knowledge of Suffolk soils that ensured the sandy outline of the ship stayed intact. This archaeological discovery changed the understanding of the Anglo-Saxon age. The significant findings were compared, at the time, to the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt in 1923. Brown would visit the Sutton Hoo treasures every year in the British Museum up until he could no longer make the trip to London.
Brown continued to work on a free-lance basis for Ipswich Museum up until he suffered a stroke or a heart attack, forcing him to retire at the age of 73. During his time, he worked on many Roman sites such as a Roman Villa at Stanton Chair and Castle Hill in Ipswich. Brown was renowned for engaging the community to help him and his team on the digs. He encouraged children from local schools to help with the initial phases of his digs. He would take the time to explain the change of colour in the soil might mean and explain when their fragments of pot may date from. His final excavation was at Broom Hills in Ricklinghall where evidence of Neolithic, Roman and Saxon activity was discovered.
In 1977 Brown passed away aged 89. He recorded his archaeological career in notebooks, letters, drawings and photographs which give an intimate insight into Brown's life and his discoveries.
The collection comprises:
Accession 18855 - not yet catalogued - no public access
- Access Status: Open
- Contact: Suffolk Record Office The Hold, Ipswich, IP4 1LN
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